Pebbles to Boulders: Starting Young at the Mayflower

Anyone watching national championship curling over the last 25 years has heard of the Mayflower Curling Club. On a regular basis, Mayflower teams earn the privilege to represent Nova Scotia at national championships. Contributing to this success might just be the operation of a fine youth program ladder, with Little Rocks being the starting rung. Because it’s a very busy curling club, the Mayflower youth program has ice only on Saturday mornings. The program is broken into four sections, providing for maximum use of ice, spread over a span of age from 5 to 18 years. The different sections take into consideration skill development and social groupings.

Instruction by juniors, giving back (Photo courtesy M. Cooper)

Beginning at 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., the Little Rocks from age 5 to 8 years have the ice. The thirty curlers conduct drills for 20 minutes involving sliding and sweeping. Mini games are played throwing rocks on half the sheet. At this age, teams are not drafted up, but rather just formed with the participants of that day. The goal of the program is to keep the activity moving and to have fun. Next, from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., are the Lite Rocks (ages 9-10) and Bantams (ages 11-12) who share the six sheets of ice time. The 26 Lite Rock curlers play the full length of the ice with the ‘Lite Rock’ curling stone, a composite plastic rock which is the full size of a regular granite and looks like a real rock, but is half the weight. Prior to playing a four-end game, arranged teams conduct practices and drills for 15 to 20 minutes. Beside the Lite Rocks at the same time are the Bantams, numbering 27 curlers this season. The Bantams also practice for 15 to 20 minutes prior to playing a four-end game the full length of the ice sheet, but they curl with the regular granite rocks. Taking over the ice time from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. are the U15’s and U18’s, numbering 54 curlers. This is a very organized group with the goal of improving skill development through the playing of six-end games each week.

Instruction by juniors - giving back. (Photo courtesy M. Cooper)

“We are fortunate at the Mayflower to have six sheets of the Lite Rocks’, says Brian Mackintosh, program co-ordinator. “This allows the Little Rock group to use the lighter rocks for their activities.” “Our focus the past few years is to make effective use of the practice/drill time, and then go into game play,” says Brian. “At our busy club, we do not have much time, so we need to use our time wisely to benefit all curlers.” A program of this size needs several volunteers. About 15 coaches help out the kids each Saturday. The younger curlers get more active coaching than the older players. About 10 to 15 older juniors arrive at 9 a.m. to help the Bantams and Lite Rocks, even though they themselves do not play until 10:30 a.m. Stu Cameron has been involved for over 20 years and has been a big part of the Mayflower. In fact, Stu and club manager Dave Jones created a half-way hack used by the Littler Rockers. This hack system relies on four granite rocks to hold it in place as the youngsters throw their rocks to the house at the home end. Mr. Mackintosh credits part of the growth in youth curling to the Vancouver Winter Olympics and the fact that the Mayflower was the host for curling during the Canada Winter Games last season in Halifax. If you know of a Little Rock curling program or a special Little Rocker that has a story to be told, I would be thrilled to hear from you. Contact me by email, [email protected].